LiAngelo, LaMelo Ball are off to Lithuania, but is that going be good for them?
The younger Ball brothers are heading to BC Prienai, but that could spell trouble
LiAngelo Ball and LaMelo Ball, brothers of Lonzo Ball and sons of the always outspoken LaVar Ball, are heading to Lithuania to begin their pro careers. When the two were announced as being pulled out of school, this was always the expected outcome, but Lithuania wasn't the country that many pegged them to choose.
Lithuania is a country that has put out many NBA pros, including Jonas Valanciunas and Domantas Sabonis, but the team they have chosen is notorious for not signing American players. According to ESPN, the reason the Balls were signed had more to do with marketing than talent level. They'll likely play at a lower level as opposed to the main pro team.
"The franchise has hopes that the Balls -- including their father, LaVar -- could be a marketing boon for the fledgling franchise, sources told ESPN.
Vytautas plays in the Lithuanian (LKL) league, but it is unlikely the Ball brothers would see significant playing time in that league. Vytautas also plays in the lesser competitive Baltic League, where the teenagers could see more playing time. The team has discussed a role of 20 to 25 minutes a game apiece in the Baltic League, a source told ESPN. "
After news broke of the two Ball's signing, the team put out a statement in support of their development as basketball players.
So the two teens are heading to a pro league, but did they make the correct choice? They will definitely make more money this way than if LiAngelo had stayed at UCLA or if LaMelo had stuck with AAU, but Lithuania is a tough place to play in and the team they chose hasn't made it any easier.
Players that have formerly played in Lithuania as pros commented on their experiences there and the specific coach for that team. Apparently the coach didn't speak English and the arena they will be playing in is very small. This adjustment period is already quite difficult for pro-level players, let alone a couple teenagers.
A freelance FIBA writer, Simonas Baranauskas, provided some detailed commentary on the team the Balls are expected to play for via a Twitter thread. He said the team isn't known for having a lot of money, but they do play a style that sounds a lot like NBA basketball. Free flowing, with a lot of 3-pointers, which is a sign of good development potential for the Balls. If, again, the coach can cooperate with them.
So what's the deal? Is this the right decision? In terms of traditional NBA development, no. Most American players are more comfortable, and have more success, going to a college or through AAU as opposed to playing overseas. However, this doesn't mean they can't be successful just that there isn't a major history of it happening right now. Two of the more well-known prospects to try going overseas, Brandon Jennings and Emmanuel Mudiay, both came back as top-10 picks. However, they were already projected highly for the draft when they left. They didn't really increase their stock with their decision.
The biggest difficulty for the Balls will be the adjustment period to life in Europe. The few players who have come out and spoken on it didn't speak highly of their time there, and the lack of American players the team signs might be an indicator of how difficult it is to play there.
However, from a pure basketball perspective, a team that freely plays and shoots 3-pointers is a great place for the two Ball's. The NBA is heading more and more toward shooting. If that's what they're aspiring to develop for, then they'll want to be somewhere that is getting them ready for that kind of basketball. If they can adjust themselves to a new location, and find a way to work with the coaching staff, then the basketball alone could work out great for them.
That said, the odds are against them.
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